Research Programs and Labs Masthead

Spine Virtual Reality Laboratory

Laboratory Focus

The Spine Virtual Reality Laboratory in the Sonntag Spine Center was established by surgeons for surgeons to allow neurosurgery residents and attendings to design and test innovative surgical training in virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality. We maintain a tight feedback loop between the personnel creating the experience and the surgeons who use the experience to practice and learn.

The field of extended reality offers many innovative benefits to surgical training including repeated usability, technical rehearsal, and estimation of surgeon performance during surgery—with no risk of patient harm.

Virtual reality also offers opportunities to greatly reduce costs, increase the availability of neurosurgical care, and increase equitable access to surgical training.

Mission: Surgical Excellence through Anatomical Practice

Mixed reality modules allow us to bring tactile feedback into our virtual surgical environments. Integrating our virtual surgical environments with tactile feedback using real-world surgical tools and 3D-printed surgical models provides in-depth physical simulation. While more dependent on location than VR, this system is still a fraction of the cost of cadaveric programs. It has far greater resource efficiency while more accurately conditioning the mind and muscle memory of neurosurgical trainees.

It is our experience that surgeons know best how to train surgeons. Therefore, our staff works directly with surgical residents in an iterative process to ensure the best training outcomes for our end users. Our residents test the applications during the development cycle, verifying and improving our program’s methods to hone it into the finest possible tool for education.

Juan Uribe, MD
Juan Uribe, MD
Spinal Neurosurgeon

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juan uribe and volker sonntag in the spinal biomechanics laboratory

Honoring Faculty Legacy

Volker K. H. Sonntag, MD, is emeritus professor at neurosurgery at Barrow Neurological Institute. His profound impact and legacy are prominently reflected in the establishment of the Sonntag Spine Center. Driven by a commitment to innovation, Dr. Sonntag’s visionary contributions have paved the way for groundbreaking advancements in medical education and neurosurgical practice.

One remarkable testament to his legacy is the foundation of the Sonntag Spine Virtual Reality Laboratory. Dr. Sonntag’s forward thinking vision challenged conventional training methodologies and encouraged a paradigm shift within the field of spine surgery. Dr. Sonntag’s legacy is represented at the Sonntag Spine VR laboratory in our pursuit of innovation and challenging the norms of neurosurgical training.

Faculty Leadership

Juan S. Uribe, MD, is the Chief of the Division of Spinal disorders, Volker K.H. Sonntag Chair of Spine Research, and Vice Chairman of Barrow Neurological Institute. He spearheads the development and operations within our laboratory.

His exceptional aptitudes for critical and innovative thinking have paved the way for multiple advancements at the Sonntag Spine Center, including the establishment of the Spine Virtual Reality Laboratory.

Dr. Uribe’s, dedication and leadership are key to the continued evolution and progress of the laboratory. His visionary guidance and expertise serve as the driving force behind our research endeavors.